NYPD precinct faces uproar over Hemingway quote ‘manhunt’

An Ernest Hemingway quote that celebrates the ‘manhunt’ is plastered on the wall of a Brooklyn police station, according to a photo obtained by Gothamist – and the NYPD is rejecting calls from local officials and advocates for remove it.

The passage, which police have used in years past to elicit a similar outcry, opens Hemingway’s 1936 short story “On The Blue Water.” It is currently inscribed on the wall in the 71st Precinct of Crown Heights and reads: ‘There is no hunting like the manhunt, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and who loved, don’t care about anything else afterwards.”

The NYPD champions the quote as literary inspiration that captures the “heady” nature of hunting down dangerous criminals. But a local council member and criminal justice advocates say the quote glorifies violence against their community.

Its existence emerges as Mayor Eric Adams this week redeploys anti-weapons unit teams within the NYPD – a reincarnation of similar units that were disbanded following the George Floyd protests after gaining a reputation for police abuse and violence.

“The police story began as an intentional attempt to violently ‘drive out’ black people while suppressing opposition and rebellion,” said council member Crystal Hudson, who represents the predominantly black neighborhood where it is located. the precinct, in a statement sent to Gothamist. “We cannot in good conscience separate this history from the policing we see in our communities today.”

Deputy Commissioner John Miller, who currently heads the NYPD’s communications office, told Gothamist that the criticism of the quote was a disservice to both the dangerous work of police officers and the famous American author.

“To insinuate any meaning into Hemingway’s quote other than that tracking down and apprehending violent and armed criminals can be exhilarating, rewarding and often dangerous is a disservice to the meaning of Hemingway’s quote and to the officers who do this. work,” Miller wrote in an email.

The quote has hung on the wall since February 1998, Miller added. He doesn’t appear to be in violation of department policies.

This is not the first time that the Hemingway line has caused controversy within the municipal police. In the 1990s, members of the NYPD’s Street Crimes Unit were known to wear t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase.

The quote also made headlines in 2013, when it was spotted on the back of an serving member of the NYPD Warrant Squad, in apparent violation of the department’s uniform policy.

The department also faced questions about a fundraising “challenge piece” that references Brooklyn’s 67th Precinct and featured the quote alongside an image of officers chasing a dark-skinned man with dreadlocks. A police spokesperson denied that the piece, which appeared online alongside an official NYPD piece, had any connection to the department.

Loyda Colon, executive director of advocacy group Justice Committee, said Hemingway’s stint was “branded” for the NYPD, comparing his popularity to the Punisher, a violent vigilante comic book character whose skull logo was adopted both by the police and from afar. – right-wing groups nationwide.

“It accurately portrays the longstanding culture of violence within the NYPD and the terror it inflicts on black, Latinx and other low-income communities of color in our city,” Colon said.

Colon also pointed to the quote in the context of the return of an undercover anti-crime unit, which was disbanded in 2020 by former commissioner Dermot Shea following the George Floyd protests. A similar group was revamped by Adams this week with a new name and new protocols designed to protect against abuse; its deployment has raised fears among criminal justice advocates.

“We have to be prepared for the NYPD’s hunt of our people to increase exponentially,” Colon said.

Adams’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

A 2020 study from New York University’s Public Safety Lab found that neighborhoods with higher percentages of black residents experienced a disproportionately high number of officers’ misconduct complaints.

The attorneys noted that the relationship between the 71st Precinct and the community it controls has been particularly strained in recent years. Officers from the police station were involved in the killing of two black men – Saheed Vessel in 2018 and Eudes Pierre last year – both of whom allegedly suffered bouts of mental health when they were shot.

But Miller, the NYPD deputy commissioner, argued that Hemingway’s quote should not be seen as threatening, but as a tribute to the fearlessness of local officers.

“Hemingway’s quote is one of his best known,” Miller wrote. “The NYPD officers who have worked in this room, over this quarter century [since the quote was inscribed]have shared the responsibility of tracking down and arresting violent criminals whose victims are members of this community.

Helen L. Cuellar